7 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Painting {aka what I have learned in the last couple months}

It all started with Shakespeare.

I know, I know.

It’s a strange place to start but that’s where it all began.

For almost five years I had not touched my painting supplies, partly out of fear and partly out of busyness, but in March my co-op class was studying The Taming of the Shrew, and were assigned to pick a topic of interest of the Elizabethan era and report back on it with physical props.

Cue the brainstorming.

Originally, I thought I might study the fashion and show up, with the closest example of an outfit from that time period, but that had been my sister’s choice a few years earlier. Next idea was to write a Shakespearean monologue from the point of Queen Elizabeth and perform it, but I had never even succeeded in writing even just a sonnet, much less an entire monologue. Besides, I had enough things to memorize already.

A third thought was to study Shakespearean embroidery and replicate it, but I wasn’t sure I could finish it in time.

With some more brainstorming, my mom then came up with the idea.

Why not study art from the era and creating a slide-show presentation of Elizabethan paintings?

Cha-ching!

Perfect.

I had (and still have…) this strange (then new-found) obsession with creating PowerPoint slides and I find art very interesting. Put them together?

Just makes sense.

I began researching and making notes, learned so much, and picked out three different pieces.

There. Done.

But wait…

At the next class, my tutor explained this project would be presented in a different room in front of the younger classes, meaning I couldn’t use the projector.

So my mom suggested that I just take one of the paintings I had picked out and reconstruct it.

Except I had never painted with oils before and never ever painted a person.

So yes.

I decided to pick up painting for the first time in about five years and use a medium I had never used before to paint a subject I had never even attempted before under a deadline.

At least Hobby Lobby had all painting supplies half off that week.

…except that deal ended the next day.

So I convinced a sibling to take me and bought the supplies.

Thankfully, the following afternoon when I unpacked my new paints, I decided to mess around with them before starting the project on the canvas.

I pick out a red and squeeze it out of the tube onto my palette. I take the brush and paint a simple rectangle. And then another.

And then I go for a circle.

But the paint won’t spread out right.

I dip my brush in the water and try to thin it.

It doesn’t work.

For at least five minutes, I sat there in growing frustration as my paint refused to move or spread.

It was after I filled have the page with strange shapes, that it finally hit me.

Duh.

Water doesn’t mix with oil.

I call the piece “Ignorance.”

img_0466-e1562180498393.jpg

Isn’t it beautiful?Β πŸ˜›

I guess all those repeated experiments about trying to mix oil and water on a plate as a kid didn’t stick. (Sorry Mom!)

Well, this story has a happy ending: I discovered the substance called “paint thinner” and went on to paint the portrait, and though it doesn’t look much like the original, it definitely looks like an Elizabethan painting.

Over the following months, I have continued to paint and have learned more about it… often learning the hard way.

Here I have compiled a list.

If you have a time-machine, feel free to take this back in time and shove it in my face. πŸ˜‰

With that, let us begin…


 

#1.Β  How to take care of tools {especially the brushes}

One thing about my ten-year old painter-self: I had no idea how to keep tidy and clean, whether it be my palette, my easel, my table, my clothes, my brushes or my hands (though to be honest, I don’t care much about that one…)

This was very evident when I finally unpacked my supplies after a couple years of almost-moving.

Exhibit 1:

Oh look at me fine brushes… notice especially the forked blue one.

Gorgeous am I right?

When I was ten, I didn’t know simple rules like, don’t store brushes on their bristles, don’t leave in the jar of water, or even the importance of cleaning them as soon as I’m done with them.

When you have tools, research how to take care of them! Whether it be through Google, a library book, or someone you know, discover proper ways to treat them well: how to store them, how to clean them, how to use them.

 

#2. Plan ahead

I have this awful habit of being terrible at making decisions when I really don’t care.

You know that friend who is that person who is always the one to say when hanging out, “Oh I don’t know… what do you want to do?”

Yeah… well that’s me and it comes across in my paintings.

Here is one of my first paintings.

img_1528-e1562371435457.jpg

I specifically remember painting this… originally it was to be a field filled with flowers beneath a huge mountain range.

But then the mountain wouldn’t corporate and decided to be a scrapped blob of blue. I tried to fix it, but with little experience or knowledge failed. So I decided it was a rain pour in the distance and decided to paint a forest.

I wanted it to be a great, thick forest, but I had already made one of those and so wanted it to be different.

So I made the trees small and spread apart…

And then, I thought it looked weird (a very justified observation…) and so decided to add a creek. But something was still missing so I decided to add a rabbit. And then a butterfly. And then another one. And then a log.

And so this piece came to be.

Even if I had had the talent to make the trees look like trees and the grass look like grass and so on and so forth, it has terrible composition.

So now to try to avoid that I think ahead. Maybe sketch out a plan or follow a picture.

As beginner, especially, I wish I had picked more subjects I was familiar with.

 

#3. Research techniques & practice

Study paintings! Watch videos! Read books!

As a beginning painter I’ve found it so helpful to do all of the above, but then also to practice the techniques.

Otherwise it would be like trying to read a math book but never doing any of the problems. πŸ˜‰

Right now for me it’s those gorgeous watercolor moons I’m trying to learn. (keyword: trying.)

img_1477

 

#4. Always finish a project

Last week I decided to paint some pictures for some friends: an animal for each. The flamingo was pretty simple and straightforward, the koala was small and fun, but the puppy…

I spent literal hours on its coat of fur.

I wanted to give up through the entire process, beginning here:

img_1431

At that point, normally I would have given up, but for two things.

First: I was using a canvas and my guilty conscience would never have let me just throw it away, and then secondly I needed to finish it by the next day or pick a new subject and start an entirely new painting to finish by the next day.

So I kept going…

img_1432

And going…

img_1434

And going…

img_1435

Finally I was somewhat satisfied with the poor puppy’s blotchy coat:

img_1439

And in the end, I just added a bunch of flowers to cover it all up.

img_1440

Ta-da!

So it didn’t turn out too bad, and I learned a lot that I would not have learned if I had stopped when I first wanted to.

Like, don’t try to paint a puppy.

See? Lesson learned. πŸ˜‰

 

#5. Don’t throw it away

When do we ever finish a art project and feel fully satisfied and proud of it? Do you ever want to rip up your page, burn its pieces, and throw its ashes into the wind?

I have. A lot actually.

Like with this lady…

img_1474
*coughs* only painted a couple months ago..? that must be wrong… πŸ˜›

Go ahead and shudder. I don’t mind at all, just don’t stare at it too long, please… for your sake.

The story behind this creepy face?

Well.

At the start of this year I was trying to use watercolors to paint a face and it turned out reeeally weird.

Yes, to be fair, I was going for a certain style.

But still.

Hideous, am I right?

The strange blotchy blush, the squinty right eye, the heart shaped head, and paper thin eyebrows, with absolutely zero eyelashes or forehead.

But the thing is, in another year or so I’ll pull it out and try again and compare.

Like I did with an elephant I painted…

Elephants compared

 

And a wolf I once drew.

Wolves_compared

 

Which is why everyone should also…

#6. Always date & sign the piece

And at this point I probably will remind you of your mother when you were in kindergarten: “Don’t forget to sing your name and put the date on it, okay honey?”

I’m sorry, but they were all right.

And I was wrong when I did not listen. πŸ˜›

And now I am left to wonder when I painted this little treasure and all it’s homeless buddies:

All I know about this little guy is that he was inspired by Monet (or at least created in the studying of Monet) and that it was a long, long time ago.

Besides, there’s something official and satisfying to signing one’s work.

And last but not least…

My frens.

Don’t drink tea or coffee while painting.

There have been at least five separate occasions where I found myself subconsciously picking up my painting water to drink from.

And many times I was inches away from dipping my brushes into my chai latte.

It just ain’t worth it.

Even if you avoid these tragedies, you will end up living long enough to see either your drink die and transform into tepid liquid or your paint dry on your palette and brushes.

You can’t always multitask.


 

So there we go. Seven brilliant gems I have discovered and am still trying to work out.

What are some things you wish your younger self knew?

~ evelyn ~


14 thoughts on “7 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Painting {aka what I have learned in the last couple months}

  1. Aww, the puppy’s so cute! I like him. ❀️ I’m gonna have to commission you to paint a hedgie for me. πŸ˜„ Great tips! (Also, I really want to see the picture you painted for the co-op project. πŸ˜€)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved seeing your artwork! You have almost convinced me that I should try to learn how to draw or paint or something…I tend to try things once and then decide that I’m never doing it again if it doesn’t turn out perfect! Not really a good way to learn. πŸ˜› I guess that’s something I wish my younger self had known – I should really work harder on learning to do things, even if they seem too difficult.
    Also, I nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger Award on my last blog post, if you want to do it. πŸ™‚ https://thechocolatebox.home.blog/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww yes. I can’t relate a whole lot to that on most things (I’m pretty stubborn ha) but there have been things here and there that I tried once and quit. Like Irish dancing as a random example. πŸ˜› Usually for me it’s a struggle to convince myself to do something well, instead of just getting it done for the sake of getting it done.

      Oh thank you! πŸ˜„ I will definitely do that. Your questions are fantastic. I look forward to answering them!

      Like

  3. I was chuckling through this entire piece and began laughing out loud at the part about almost drinking your paint water. It’s amazing to see how far you have come! I didn’t even realize how much you had “failed” in the process of learning to draw/paint (and I’ve lived in the same house as you, haha). You are quite a determined young lady and you’ve worked hard to get to where you are. πŸ™‚ Don’t stop writing or painting.

    Love you and miss you! ❀

    Liked by 1 person

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